thumbnail of The U.S. Senate Class of 1977; 7; Senator Lloyd Bentsen
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This has been a lifelong ambition of mine to serve in the United States Senate. I think I'm an issue oriented senator and I'm going to approach each of these issues on the facts as I see them as related to that issue make up my mind and vote regardless of who happens to be for it or against it. I come here is really not under obligation I don't think to any group as such but to try to do an objective job for the people of my state the people of our nation. The United States Senate. Class of 1971. Was.
This year 11 the freshman five Republicans five Democrats and one conservative joined the ranks of the 100 and America's upper house of the legislative branch of government. Here for the national educational radio network with a profile of one of these new United States senators. Is your host Bill Baroni. The lone star state's latest contribution to the United States Senate as a conservative businessman attorney and former Congressman Lloyd Benson and Democratic Senator from Texas. This has been a lifelong ambition of mine to serve in the United States Senate. I served in the house years ago and frankly felt I need to establish some financial independence for myself and lift the Congress back in 1054 to go back into business and started a business. And I feel that a man up here
has so many pressures on political pressures trying to influence him to vote this way or that that one of the influences I didn't want was having to be in a position where I was financially dependent. I want to have freedom from that and then Fortune have to be able to do that. So I come here really not under obligation I don't think to any group as such but to try to do an objective for the people of my state the people of our nation. I found it quite a challenge since I've been here. Found it very exciting and the issues are coming fast and furious and trying to keep doing your homework and studying for it is a real time consuming job. But I'm certainly getting a lot of satisfaction out of it and I hope I can make a contribution I want to make every effort to do so.
Lloyd Benson was born on February 11th 1921 in Mission Texas in 1942 at the age of 21 he called unaided an astonishing educational career by receiving a law degree from the University of Texas the same year he joined the Army Air Corps and served until the end of World War Two at the age of 25. He was elected county judge of hill doggle County Texas. Lloyd Benson and his wife Beryl and have three children and make their home in Houston in 1970 when he decided to run for the Senate. John Mobley ran his campaign. I think he was probably motivated to get in the right. Being in the Senate returned but I'm sure of it. But Congressman I didn't get into the business world. He made it his business ventures you know headed as I returned. This is the opportunity to do it. Is opponent in the May 2nd Democratic primary was the incumbent senator Ralph Yarbrough
was a hard fought battle between the conservative and liberal wings of the Texas Democratic Party. Benson was backed by former Texas governor and now Treasury Secretary John Connally. Connally was the leader of the conservative democratic forces and a political enemy of Yarbrough the Liberal leader Yarbrough had won election to the Senate three times in the past on the strength of a coalition that included organized labor black and Mexican American voters and rural Democrats in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Yarbrough forces launched a heavy voter registration drive among black and Mexican-American communities and were successful. But there are expected large voter turnout in these areas failed to materialize. East Texas voters whom Yarbro had been able to attract in the past with a populist approach differed with a liberal on the race issue and failed to come through in 1970. Benson campaign noting Yarbrough is a vote against Harold Carr's Well Supreme Court nomination. His support for busing and opposition to prayers in public schools this one Benson the conservative rural vote breaking the Yarbro Coalition voter apathy in other areas coupled with some Republican crossovers gave Lloyd Benson close to 53 percent of the
Democratic vote and the nomination. I mean clearly there were people in Indiana and he had a very distinct difference with several mattered articulated very well. Convince the voters that he was a better candidate the Texas general election pitted conservative Democrat Lloyd Benson against conservative Republican George Bush. Benson's campaign style did an almost complete about face from his primary battle was a very quiet campaign in comparison. Benson pushed the economic issue hard accusing the president of dribbling away the economic prosperity of the country. Bush a member of the House of Representatives and heavily backed by the administration supported the White House economics over taxes and unemployment rate was far below the national average and the economic issue probably had very little impact. Well I think it was a rather strange campaign in the sense that first nobody expected him to win in the primary except to
the very people he expected to win from the time he got in already. But basically I mean early early in the campaign. Developed when people realize he was a serious candidate when they realize he can't get a warrant and an understanding of the tax problem that made him a successful candidate the Bradbury when he won after nobody expected there was a feeling that he was a cinch to win the general election. We never felt that it was going to be an easy race in the general election again. We knew we had to continue doing the right thing. We progressed from that there was a general feeling early in the campaign that
he would be certain to be the winner whenever the race very close. We felt like this was pretty much going to be the game out of the race. But again I think he won because we're clearly articulated he presented himself as a very able individual one particular thing that I think is very telling. Programming the campaign with a 30 minute question and program where question from a telephone from doing audience were fed via telephone in the studio. They came and ensured that Maynor write their own camera. Programs like this help demonstrate what an able articulate man that
Greenlee had to deal with problems of the greatest magnitude nothing. This reflected itself in the campaign through this particular medium as well as voter apathy which had plagued Lloyd Benson's opponent in the primary and helped win him that election could have defeated him in the general election. He was able to get the support of liberal Democratic leaders but he also needed the rank and file. Texas is heavily Democratic in voter registration but the majority of those are registered Democrats. More out of tradition than from conviction. It was these nominal Democrats that Lloyd Bentsen needed to spark to the polls on election night the early voter turnout proved to be heavy. But Republicans were still optimistic. Benson senior colleague in the Senate Republican John Tower was GOP Senate Campaign Committee chairman in 1070 and was in Texas on election night and I don't think that's going to get larger. It automatic got to play with the Democrats and
they but they could devote whatever 1.3 million ad lib but it went on quite a lot that they did not want to watch. I don't feel that they got out when the ballots were counted the heavy turnout of voters had gone democratic and elected Lloyd Benson as their new senator. Congressman Bush the man the administration had spent and campaigned so heavily for conceded early during the 1070 campaign President Nixon had made a strong appeal for the election of GOP candidates to the Senate because as he put it he needed a majority he could work with there. The Republicans did make inroads into the Democratic Senate majority but failed to gain control. So lacking a political majority the administration turned to a different kind of majority. And Lloyd Benson became a key pawn to them and their new ideological majority. The concept was first voiced to the Republican headquarters in Washington in the small hours of the morning following election day. Vice President Agnew was the spokesman. But I think the Benson win certainly a win for the administration we supported George Bush as hard as we could we think he's one of the finest candidates the Republican
Party ever put up. But we do count the Benson win as a philosophical change in the Senate and as additional support for the president and his foreign policy and national defense pursued we didn't think you can dance. Anybody fact I think it's pretty obvious they wanted a beating they threw everything but the kitchen sink at a cabinet down there campaigning to get him. They obviously wanted to like Bush better any day but to the contrary. I mean I think you're right. Well as I recall the administration said immediately after my lection that they considered me one of their ideological majority I which was quite interesting to me because if they want to consider me as a soul brother they had been down there just a few days before doing everything they could to defeat me. They'd spent more money in supporting my opponent in the race than any other senatorial candidate that the Republican Party would. Support. It was
an all out effort. I would say that. I'm not going to be. Categorized or labeled I think labels are really more appropriate for pots and pans. I think I'm an issue oriented senator and I'm going to approach each of these issues on the facts as I see them as related to that issue make up my mind and vote regardless of who happens to be for it or against it. I'm not going to be someone that can be just automatically categorized as being for or against because the administration is for it or against it. Now in the Senate Lloyd Benson is still pursuing the issues he so hotly debated during the campaign and through some fortunate committee assignments is developing some additional ones. I suppose if I'm more interested one than another it's this time it's my concern about the economy of the country. What's happening to it and what I felt was a very bad bit of administration policy.
In the last year I think that they've been changing I think that President Nixon has correctly read the last election and during the campaign I campaigned on the point that I thought that they had gone too far on monetary policy alone and trying to control inflation and that they paid too high a price and unemployment that they had to balance this off with some other things things like jawboning and moral suasion things that he said he wouldn't do and said so from the very beginning of time he started his administration. The results were that inflation got out of hand. And then he tried to couple it with the highest interest rates in 100 years and that meant that people were having trouble buying homes it meant that business was having trouble borrowing money to start a new industry to create jobs. So all of it was resulted in a situation that I I think was bad for the country some serious economic dislocations. So here's where a lot of the thrust of my work would be
I get into other things. I'm concerned about I'm obviously concerned about questions like environmental aspects of our country and the protection of our quality of life I'm serving on the Public Works Committee which has the pollution subcommittee which is taking a lot of my interest and I've devoted considerable time to it since I've been here. I'm on the Armed Services Committee and because I'm concerned to see that our country remains. Strong enough to protect it from any outside intruder. And on the other hand I want to see that we get our food dollars worth of the taxpayers money that's spent. So this takes a good part of my time. And I serve on the Joint Economic Committee. I suppose I'm the only new senator to have gone on the Joint Economic Committee. And this cuts across the whole spectrum of human concerns because it deals with the work of every committee really when you get to talking about economics and the money that's involved in each one of
these things be it the Finance Committee or the Armed Services Committee the Public Works Committee. Down the list. So it certainly has given me an outlet for for all of my interest in serving as a United States senator expressing such constant concern about the unstable economy are now holding a seat on the Armed Services Committee. Senator Bentsen will be in a position to exert some immediate influence and one of the biggest factors in the American economy defense spending if not cutting the Pentagon budget at least getting the most for our military dollars will be an extremely important task of the 90 second Congress. Well what we have to do is have a better overview or oversight by the Congress itself. I think that we have to be better staffed in the Congress to really examine what's happening what these projects are really accomplishing. One of the problems we have is that. Congress will have you know two or three men who were trying to study
a project that is being presented with the back up views and studies of hundreds of men in the Pentagon sometimes even thousands. And we have very limited information on which to base our judgment. So I think that we have to be able to go into more depth and study these things. I think we have to go into more depth and seeing the type of contracts that are being entered into with defense contractors. I think this is where we can make a contribution. One of the problems we have in the Congress is not not just this question of Defense but Congress has a tendency to operate from crisis to crisis and to appropriate for something because of conditions today. And then those who are in a newly created agency or or committee in the executive branch have a tendency to perpetuate their agencies and their jobs and we don't go back and see if the same conditions still exist. We go on to the next crisis. And here again I think that that we
have to have a more complete staff so we can really do our job in effect. We're the board of directors for the stockholders represented by the United States Senate. And the executive branch represents the United State analogous to. To the management of a corporation Well the board of directors has to keep a check rein on the management from time to time to see the things that they really justify the expenditure of all of these funds. And I think we if we were better informed and not just taking information from self-serving information from the executive branch that we could do a better job of it if were really going to be auditors to see that they do their job then we should be provided with independent information not just information that they sent us to justify their own cause. The Senate's role in foreign policy is an area on which Senator Benson has some very definite beliefs and voices himself with those senators already engaged in a battle to reassert the
Senate's influence in international affairs. I feel very strongly that the Senate. Should participate in foreign policy decisions. That was certainly contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. I don't think that the framers of the Constitution wanted to install a monarchy to replace the one that they just repudiated. In turn I don't think that they meant for us to have a super president and I'm not saying this with political connotations or partisan connotations because we've seen the Office of the presidency grow under Democrats and Republicans alike. But I think we have a serious danger in this country of seeing a great imbalance in the checks and balances where the powers of the presidency and the executive branch far overreaching the powers of the legislative branch. Today for example the president is has to be the chief legislator or the way things are going most of the major pieces of legislation that passed through the Congress are
actually originated in the executive branch and brought over here with their wealth of information to back them up and and frankly too often our lack of independent information to question them. More of these things should be originated in the Congress itself that we are to preserve the original checks and balances. So here again is it. It's a matter of concern for me on the foreign policy question back to that again. We run into the same kind of a problem in a nucular age as we have today. We are well aware that there are times when the president must act to defend the country. Obviously if this country is under attack the president can't wait for the Congress to convene is out of session. He must he must move to defend this country. Again I think if any of our territories or states were attacked or our troops were there lawfully emplaced are attacked and that the president must be able to react immediately to protect them. But I believe if it means
going into a new territory if it means an involvement in a new territory an invasion starting a war in effect whether it's officially declared or not that the Congress should and must be consulted and must be a part of that decision either to agree that it must be done or to negate it and say no it cannot be done and certainly that was contemplated under the way the Constitution was drafted and I think that we must continue that way. We can't let the powers of the Congress be eroded away because if you do you're going to see this country go more and more to to a centralist type government and more and more to paternalism coming out of the office of the presidency. And I don't think that the presidency can be as responsive. To the many sectors of the country as you can see in the Congress itself
I asked Senator Benson how this philosophy would relate to practical matters in the next year as the Senate deals with the problems of winding down U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Well I think that the Senate must keep continuing pressure on the presidency through appropriations through appropriate resolutions to see that the war winds down in Indochina. I think the president certainly wants that war to wind down. I think the political imperatives are such that he recognizes this. And I for one have supported a planned withdrawal of our troops I don't think we can just bug out and do an about face and head for the ports summarily. I think it has to be a planned withdrawal. I think that it's now taking place. I think we could withdraw even faster than we are. I've just returned from a couple of weeks in Vietnam and the coming Republic Cambodia and Laos and Thailand and.
I'm convinced that frankly that we have not fully realized appreciated in this country much success we've had in the pacification efforts in South Vietnam. You get down in the Mekong Delta now and you find that the South Vietnamese troops are in control of that situation and we don't have our land forces really down there in any strength at all. You go to Saigon and it's not being regularly shelled and taken rockets as it was 12 months to 18 months ago. You get up to denying you run in the same type of thing. Now you get over into the incursion in Laos. This is kind of a mixed bag. I don't think you're going to see any clear victory. Somebody else and the other fellow is sword. But I think on balance as of this date that it can be considered at least a partial success. There has been an interdiction of supplies for a period of time a disruption of
supply lines at least a major part of the hoochie been trail cut I think. But I think there's something more significant than that that has resulted from this. And I think it is showing the South Vietnamese that their soldiers could fight that they're reasonably well trained. I'm fully aware that there are some units that didn't do a good job of it but in the main I think they did. On the other hand I think it showed the North Vietnamese that they have themselves a pretty stout opponent in the South Vietnamese. There's no question what the South Vietnamese though could not have succeeded to the extent they did without the massive air support that this country gave them. I was at case sun which as you know is the forward base right against the ocean border and then I flew in a helicopter up to the Laotian borders also in enemy action some firing going on there. I got up where I could smell the gunpowder. That's
about as close as I want to get to the situation frankly. But I was trying to get at the facts with the bark off to better understand it. Now we have tended in this country to be skeptical of some of the comments made by administration leaders be they Democrat or Republican concerning the war and I think with due cause at times but I think we should be just as quick to be skeptical of the of the statements made by the North Vietnamese. You know as to what's happening there this is been a very tough encounter and wars is a mean dirty business. But I think that in this situation that there have been obviously substantial losses on both sides and in the main I think the South Vietnamese have gained by the encounter. But I don't think there's awareness of that in this country to the extent that should be I believe because of the stout fight they put up. That's why I believe that's why we can bring our troops faster bring them home
faster than we had to bring home. And I would be surprised at all to see the president announce a faster withdrawal program. I think he should. I reinforced my belief that we should not have land forces in Cambodia and Laos and that we certainly should not support any South Vietnamese adventure into North Vietnam. This question of Chinese intervention. I don't believe it. It's a serious risk. Unless we were to try to establish a hostile government to China that would be contiguous to its borders. For example if we were to try to invade North Vietnam and establish their hostile government in Hanoi then I think we'd run a very serious risk of a Chinese intervention. And we just mustn't get ourselves into that kind of position to prolong the agony of the situation that we've been involved elsewhere on the international level Senator Benson
says he is opposed to American participation with the Soviet Union in a big power Middle East peacekeeping force. He opposes the concept because of the danger of stationing American alongside Russian soldiers could produce one flare temper one stray shot could produce a monumental international crisis. Instead he believes a peace force made up from groups of less or more neutral nations would be safer and more effective on the Soviet American arms race. Senator Benson is concerned about two things. One the level to which it has escalated and to an apparent unawareness of the dangers of the problem in this country. I'm deeply concerned that that we are getting into a position where the Russians in particular I don't think the Chinese have reached that point and some distance from it frankly but that the Russians ever since the Cuban encounter with us from that point on have gone on an all out effort to reach missile superiority over us and that they have been expanding
very substantial sums on research and development. Substantially more than we are and have a clear cut commitment to do so in order to try to obtain superiority over our country and dictate the foreign policies of this country. That's a matter of very deep concern to me and I would have to agree with you that the public in general doesn't seem to have an awareness or an acceptance of that and whether they will have the will to to make the sacrifices that are necessary to see that our country remains at least on a parity insofar as its capabilities alongside the Russians. It is a matter of deep concern to me because I think that we must we must retain a purity in order to protect our country. Lloyd Benson is able to express frankness and openness with those with which he meets. Yet at the same
time he has a guarded and careful man. Politically he has as he stated his own man. But while he enjoys the confidence of his own party he is equally liked by the opposition camp in the White House. An example of his independence came with a Senate vote on the US S. T. Senator Bentsen had been expected to vote for continuation of supersonic transport development. He was a definite yes in the administration polls right down until the end. And there are many Texans employed in the aerospace industry. But to Lloyd Bentsen the economical and ecological negatives of the SSD outweigh the pro arguments. He voted no. He was already highly respected by his fellow members his intelligence and abilities are far above average. Congressional observers are already predicting a very important role both in legislative pursuits and eventually leadership positions. For Lloyd Benson United State Senator from Texas this is Bill Moroney. The United States Senate class of 1971 was produced in Washington
Series
The U.S. Senate Class of 1977
Episode Number
7
Episode
Senator Lloyd Bentsen
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/500-2j68728f
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Description
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Date
1971-00-00
Topics
Politics and Government
Media type
Sound
Duration
00:29:35
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 71-15-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
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Citations
Chicago: “The U.S. Senate Class of 1977; 7; Senator Lloyd Bentsen,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 7, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-2j68728f.
MLA: “The U.S. Senate Class of 1977; 7; Senator Lloyd Bentsen.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 7, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-2j68728f>.
APA: The U.S. Senate Class of 1977; 7; Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-2j68728f